Central Bank Governor Riad Salameh on Friday noted that Lebanon’s banking sector is being targeted by “suspicious campaigns,” stressing that David Cohen, U.S. Treasury undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, had not addressed any “ultimatums or warnings” to the sector during his recent visit to Lebanon.
“Some are displeased over the success of Lebanese banks in the region, but the sector is robust and enjoys confidence despite being subjected to suspicious campaigns,” Salameh said in an interview on Al-Manar television.
During his visit, Cohen “stressed the need for authorities to protect the Lebanese financial sector from potential attempts to evade U.S. and international financial sanctions” imposed on Syria and Iran, the U.S. embassy in Lebanon said in a statement.
“He reiterated the U.S. view that it is important to ensure that the current instability in Syria does not undermine the Lebanese financial sector.”
Salameh stressed that “Cohen did not interfere in our financial decisions, and he did not address ultimatums or warnings, but rather noted that he wants to protect the financial sector in the U.S. from individuals whose names are included in the sanctions list .”
The governor said he told Cohen that “Bank Saderat Iran was established in 1963” in Lebanon and that “it respects Lebanese laws and deals with others the same as Lebanese banks do and its size does not justify suspicions that it is a springboard for illegal banking operations.”
Separately, Salameh called on the government to “speed up the auditing and the drafting of the state budget.”
Salameh, who met Cohen on Tuesday, has repeatedly stressed that the Lebanese banking sector would abide by sanctions against Syria.
The sanctions include freezing Syrian government assets and suspending cooperation with Syria's central bank and some other banks.
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